Ugbodaga: Let offenders be brought to Justice
Dr Philip Ugbodaga is a social commentator, crusader and the Executive Director, Registered Voters Association of Nigeria (REVAN). He spoke to
ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU in Benin City on how to curb electoral violence.
What do you think should be done with the NHRC list of alleged election offenders?
Electios all over the world are a defining characteristic of democracy, and thus form an integral part of the democratization process. Nigerians, therefore, expect that elections will always be conducted in accordance with the constitution and that elections will meet the minimum requirement of fairness, for them to be acceptable to even those who lose.
The recent publishing of a list of electoral offenders by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for which nothing had been done over the years, is most intriguing. It is sad that over the years the institutions of state saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders, have been toothless and proven to be incapable of prosecuting electoral offenders. So, to restore the confidence of the people in the ballot box, the government must ensure that identified offenders are prosecuted, to serve as a deterrent to future offenders. All those on the NRHC election offenders list must be brought to justice because they are enemies of a progressive Nigeria.
The government should ensure that the same zeal and vigour with which it is prosecuting the corruption war, is extended to the electoral system. Any person previously indicted over the years for subjecting our electoral value to odium and thereby, ridiculing us among the comity of nations, should be made to account for their mindless electoral infraction. If electoral malfeasance and impunity is not tackled head-on, it will continue to fester and retard our progress as a nation
What will you say about cases of compensation for victims of post election violence in Kaduna, Akwa Ibom and other places, which have remained unresolved?
The problem with this country is that when we set up committees, we simply do so to satisfy public concerns, and with the passage of time, such reports are usually left to gather dust in government cupboards. That is exactly what has happened to the report concerning victims of several post-election violence across the country. Government is a continuum and if the previous one made promises in that regards to compensate the affected families, there is no justification whatsoever to refuse to pay the victims or their dependants by this government.
Do you support setting up of special courts to try electoral offenders?
The establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission was part of the broader reforms recommended by the presidential Electoral Reform Committee set up by former President Musa Yar ‘Adua of blessed memory. I recall that a bill in that regards was presented to the National Assembly in April of 2009, along with six other electoral reform bills. The then National Assembly amended the Electoral Act in August 2010, to include some of the presidential committee’s recommendations but sadly, left out the creation of the Electoral Offences Commission for reasons I cannot fathom till date.
One of the failures of INEC over the years is its lack of interest and its embarrassing unwillingness to professionally prosecute electoral offenders. Ordinarily, the constitution of special courts emanates from the failure of established systems. But recognising the monumental damage electoral malpractices has done to our values as a country, it is not out of place to begin to look at the desirability of setting up special courts, to try such cases. We need to answer the critical question, whether the existing legal framework for the prosecution of electoral offenders as encapsulated in the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) is adequate for the arrest, investigation and prosecution of electoral offenders.
Election is due in Edo State and then later Ondo, what do you advice should be done to curb violence?
We must do everything in our power to ensure that politicians do not turn the elections in Edo and Ondo states into a state of war, where, young people are conscripted into the burgeoning industry of political thuggery, where they kill and maim for their political masters. So far, there has not been any reported case of political killing in these two states and I hope this is sustained into the election and even thereafter. The simple thing to do to curb any violent tendency, is to ensure that these elections are fair, credible and transparent because when an electoral process is perceived as unfair, manipulated or corrupt, its political legitimacy is compromised and politicians and their supporters are motivated to engage in violent conducts. There is also the need for a vigorous voter education and other measures to build confidence in the electoral system.